How are our communities, our economy and our environment interconnected?  Sustainability Matters is a community conversation series aimed at investigating what sustainability really means in practice.  Sustainability Matters events will take place each month.

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2016 Events


February 16, 2016 – Dahl's Sunrise Dairy

What does a local and sustainable business model look like?  Dahl’s Sunrise Dairy in Babbitt fills traditional glass bottles with all-natural milk and delivers their delicious product to over 25 communities across northern Minnesota.  And their business continues to grow.

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November 17, 2016 - Vegetarian Thanksgiving

Local chief Jenna Ballinger hosted the Vegetarian Thanksgiving at Messiah Lutheran Church in Mountain Iron on Thursday, Nov. 17.  With the help of audience members, Chef Jenna cooked an entire Thanksgiving meal from start to finish. Using fresh local ingredients from gardens and local grocery stores the main course was a vegetarian pot pie with potatoes, carrots, peas, and onions.  For the most important part of the Thanksgiving meal, the side dishes, Chef Jenna cooked up kale mashed potatoes and spiced up version of a green bean casserole, not just from a can. And lastly for dessert a delicious cranberry sauce and cheddar apple galette was prepared. Participants anxiously awaited the tasting portion of the event, when the twenty people in attendance got to try out an early Thanksgiving meal!


  • Vegetarian Pot Pie
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Kale Mashed Potatoes
  • Cheddar Apple Galette
  • Cranberry Sauce

2015 Events


March 12, 2015  – Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic

What can Aldo Leopold’s “land ethic” tell us about sustainability?  Jim DeVries (Laurentian Environmental Learning Center and the IRPS Board of Directors) lead a discussion about Leopold’s pivotal book A Sand County Almanac.  This event was sponsored by IRPS and Friends of the Greenhouse.


June 16, 2015 – Trash Talking Tour

Ever wonder what happens to the stuff you put in the garbage or recycling bin?  IRPS and Congregations Caring for the Earth hosted a tour of the St. Louis County Recycling Facility and Regional Landfill, a discussion on composting, and a tour of East Range Development Achievement Center in Eveleth in order to learn how our waste is managed and how we can treasure more and trash less.


July 25, 2015 – Let’s Talk Lakes!

We love our lakes. Could understanding these water resources better guide our stewardship of them? IRPS, McCarthy Beach State Park, the Minnesota DNR and the 1854 Treaty Authority guided the conversation about the ecology of northern MN lakes.


August 23, 2015 – Virginia Farmer’s Markets Get Together!

We’re fans of farmers’ markets and local produce!  This event featured a dedication of the “Virginia Market Square” space at City Center Park by Virginia Mayor Larry Cuffe and a discussion about establishing a farmers’ market with Jesse Davis of the Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association.  Interested in learning more about the upcoming Virginia Farmers’ Market at Market Square?  Send an e-mail to to get on the list of contacts.


September 11 – 13 – 2nd Annual Iron Range Harvest Festival

Friday, Sept. 11. – Participants enjoyed a lively conversation about transitioning to a healthy and local food system following a community screening of the film “FRESH.”

Saturday, Sept. 12. – Visitors explored four area farms and chatted with the folks who actually grow our food.

Sunday, Sept. 13  – The community came together for a local farmers’ market, with several local vendors and the music of singer/songwriter Josh Palmi.  Events concluded with the 100 Mile Harvest Meal, hosted by Congregations Caring for the Earth.  This community potluck featured locally-sourced food from within 100 miles of the Quad Cities area.  One attendee to the 100 Mile Harvest Meal described it as “the way Thanksgiving should be.”

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October 20, 2015 – Take Action on Clean Energy!

This event featured conversations about taking active roles in the transition to clean energy world.

Natalie Cook and James Hietala from the Sierra Club Northstar Chapter discussed how our energy landscape has changed in the last decade.  They described where our current energy mix for electrical usage comes from, and they highlighted opportunities to make an impact on bringing more clean renewable energy onto the grid.  More information is available at

Bill Mittlefehldt from the Northeast Region of the MN Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) spoke about creative responses to our current economic and ecological situation.  His presentation included opportunities to implement energy efficiency and renewable energy projects with the support of CERTs.

November 17, 2015 – Sustainable Deer Hunting

Hunting for white tailed deer is a long tradition here in MN and every November the woods are dotted with orange clad humans seeking to fill their freezers with locally grown, organic and sustainable meat.  With resurgence in the Locavore movement, wild venison is becoming more sought after.  Guest speaker Kristian Jankofsky, hunter, educator and advocate for local foods lead a discussion on the topic of “Sustainable Deer Hunting.”  The group explored how the economics of the hunting culture and how it impacts our local economy.

Saturday Dec. 12 through Thursday Dec. 24 – 12 Days of Sustainable Actions – Holiday Challenge

Sustainability is about building resiliency in the local environment, economy and communities. This contest challenged participants to make more sustainable decisions during the holiday season.  The top three photos voted by IRPS Facebook followers received a gift certificate from a local business!